In August we reported that St Sepulchre Without Newgate Church in Holborn, London, UK had ended its practice of allowing classical musicians to use rehearsal space in the church. The Telegraph reported that “the church became part of the evangelical group, which is known for its youth-friendly rock-band style of worship, in 2013. Now classical groups are no longer welcome to rehearse and perform there – and resident choristers say they are “concerned that it will become a worship choir with drums and keyboards.”
This seemed particularly ironic as Sir Henry Wood, the founder of the Proms, London’s legendary classical music festival, is buried there.
Now, in a statement from the acting Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, the diocese has provided an update on discussions with St Sepulchre and news of the launch of a new website that aims to connect musicians to available spaces in churches across the city.
“I am grateful to the Rector and PCC of St Sepulchre,” writes Broadbent, “for being willing to engage with me and other diocesan colleagues about their decision. In that engagement I have repeated and re-inforced the role the Church of England plays in the communities it serves. The Church of England is called to be a welcoming, inclusive, and engaging church. I have re-emphasised the importance of this to all those at St Sepulchre.”
He seems to have been able to mediate the dispute amicably and says that St Sepulchre will again be open to use by classical musicians for rehearsals and performances
“Major flagship concerts and rehearsals in preparation for these concerts will still take place at St Sepulchre, and the PCC is developing a wider programme of music which they will be announcing soon. I am pleased a new album from their choir will also be released shortly.”
And then he speaks about how the diocese intends to use this dispute and the news attention it has garnered for some outreach.
“The Diocese has a role to play in facilitating and encouraging stronger relationships between the Church in London and the musical community, including making it easier for musicians to access rehearsal and concert space. The wide coverage of these matters has convinced me that we need to improve access to churches which are willing and able to provide such space. So, as from 1 November, we shall be launching a website – www.musicianschurch.org – that will provide easy access to hire space and booking options for musicians in London, as well as be used as a tool to promote concerts and events. I do hope this will also allow us to help support and encourage new musicians, as they form ensembles, and bring together family, friends and the wider public to enjoy the creativity and celebration of God-given musical talent.”
The Rector, the Rev David Ingall, has also issued a statement expressing his support and the support of the parish council to what the bishop has said.
“We totally endorse all Bishop Pete has said, and St Sepulchre’s will always strive to be welcoming, inclusive and engaging.
It’s disappointing that much of the debate in recent days has focussed on the negative of a cancelled hiring programme in one church, rather than the wider role the church continues to play. Indeed at St Sepulchre’s the Choral tradition remains strong and central to our worshipping life. In the last few years the number of Choral Services has more than doubled and the Choir has increased in size. We have also re-started Sunday services after a gap of more than 30 years.
We have tried to get the balance right in our activities, and we have tried to communicate our passion for music. We have not always succeeded. I regret that and where we have caused upset, I and the PCC, are sorry.”